Landmark Objects

Landmark Objects

Each of these large, iconic artifacts anchors a wing of the Museum and highlights key themes of the exhibitions in that wing.

John Bull Locomotive, First Floor East

This landmark object -- the John Bull Locomotive -- identifies the transportation and technology wing of the museum.

On view is the steam locomotive John Bull and a section of the first iron railroad bridge in America.

The steam locomotive John Bull was built in 1831 and ran for 35 years, pulling trains of passengers and cargo between the two largest cities of the time, Philadelphia and New York. The locomotive propelled trains at 25 to 30 miles per hour. The John Bull, which was ordered from England by Robert Stevens for his railroad company, was named after the mythical gentleman who symbolized England. It was assembled by Isaac Dripps, a young steamboat mechanic who had never seen a locomotive before.

Ralph Bear's Workshop, First Floor West

The gateway to the Innovation wing is anchored by the home workshop of inventor Ralph Baer, known as the father of the video game.

More about Baer's workshop

Greensboro Lunch Counter, Second floor East

This landmark object -- the Greensboro Lunch Counter -- identifies the American ideals wing of the museum.

This section of the Woolworth's lunch counter with 4 stools from Greensboro, North Carolina, represents the February 1, 1960 sit-in that challenged segregated eating places.  On February 1, 1960, four African American students -- Ezell A. Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond -- sat down at this counter and politely asked for service. Their request was refused. When asked to leave, they remained in their seats. They were all enrolled at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College. Their "passive sit-down demand" began one of the first sustained sit-ins and ignited a youth-led movement to challenge injustice and racial inequality throughout the South.

George Washington Sculpture, Second Floor West

This landmark object -- the George Washington Sculpture -- identifies the American lives wing of the museum.

On view is the marble statue of George Washington commissioned by Congress in 1832 to commemorate the centennial of our first president's birth. The artist, Horatio Greenough, modeled his figure of Washington on a classical Greek statue of Zeus, but the semi-clothed statue attracted controversy and criticism as soon as it arrived in the city in 1841. In 1908, Congress transferred the statue to the Smithsonian, where it went on view in the Castle. Then in 1964, it was moved to the museum for its opening.

Civil War Draft Wheel, Third Floor East

This landmark object -- the Civil War Draft Wheel -- identifies the American wars and politics wing of the museum.

As part of the Armed Forces collections at the National Museum of American History, the Draft Wheel is an object that demonstrates the very beginning of conscription in the United States. It functioned as part of a procedure to select men for military service. The names of men eligible for the draft were written on slips of paper and dropped into holes inside the wheel. An official pulled out names to fill the ranks of the Union army.